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Decolonising the curriculum

Discussion in 'Education news' started by physicsfanboy, Jun 12, 2020.

  1. alex_teccy

    alex_teccy Lead commenter

    This is a ideological misreading of history. There’s no reason to suggest that scientists were personally motivated by imperialism.
    It is predicated on the fallacy that Imperialism was overwhelmingly negative.
    The opposite is true.
    To give one example, the moden achievement of eradication of Polio and Smallpox in India was built on a foundation of science, education, government and infrastructure of the British Raj. Similarly towns and city building with slum clearance and sanitation improvements which followed discoveries about the spread of Cholera.

    Every modern state is built on institutions of government, public health, economic investment, security, infrastructure, education established during the Imperal era.
    Education is a diological process and that means presenting facts from different perspectives.

    To construct a curriculum that is designed to construct one version of history in the minds of young people is not education, it is indoctrination.

    “In 2017, academics launched a vociferous attack on Prof Biggar after he suggested that people should have “pride” about aspects of their imperialist past.

    He said that the history of the British Empire was "morally mixed" and that "just like that of any nation state, then pride can temper shame".

    Over 50 professors, lecturers and researchers signed an open letter expressing their “firm rejection” of his views.

    “The problem is that most academics know nothing about imperial history,” Prof Biggar said.

    “What they do know is that it’s not fashionable to stand up for the British Empire and they also get the impression that if you dare to that, like me, you get mobbed. If you are younger your career is at risk if you stand up for unfashionable causes.”

    Prof Biggar described how at a conference he organised on colonialism and one young academic said he would only attend on the condition that his name does not appear on the programme as he fearer that his career would be “damaged” by association with the event.

    “A zealous left wing minority of academics will persuade a much larger majority of ignorant on this matter and uncertain academics who don’t really want to get into trouble,” he said.

    Rather than removing statues, a far better way to atone for an institutions’ historic links with slavery is to set up scholarships and donate money to relevant causes Prof Biggar said.

    “Let history be, let history stand,” Prof Biggar said. “If you really care about racial disadvantage or the plight of black people, why not create scholarships rather than tear down statues?”

    He praised the approach of All Souls’ College which in 2017 launched an annual scholarship scheme, funding graduates from Caribbean countries to study at Oxford, alongside a five-year grant for a higher education college in Barbados.

    The move was aimed at acknowledging the legacy of Christopher Codrington, a sugar plantation magnate from Barbados who in 1710 bequeathed part of his fortune for the college to establish the library that bears his name.

    Campaigners have called for the Codrington Library to be renamed and for his marble statue, which is currently in the library, to be moved to a museum to avoid “glorifying” him - but the College has so far resisted such calls.”

  2. alex_teccy

    alex_teccy Lead commenter

    I’d probably say Yuka Wang is a better pianist than my 2 year old but I guess that’s just me being all subjective and post-modern:rolleyes:

    Music academics in the post war era were convinced too. That’s why they thought we’d all be sitting around listening the Schoenberg and the like.
    Well here we are 2020 and people are still queuing up to listen to Beethoven Bach Tchaikovsky Rachmaninov.

    But you’re right of course music is allot like pie, it’s best to get on with enjoying your own pie. (I like Bartok, but it’s easy to see how some folks would not.)
    If some people are pretending to enjoy eating pies with nuts and bolts in them let them get on with it!
  3. alex_teccy

    alex_teccy Lead commenter

    I think that at some point the Left will have to accept that the West is not anymore racist and wicked than the rest of the planet, we just happened to get to them enlightenment first.

    If anything we were more magnanimous in the use our power than others had been historically.

    I really wish these ******* would stop rewriting history.
  4. alex_teccy

    alex_teccy Lead commenter

    Western musical tradition is the zenith of musical culture and expression. This is why the Japanese, Chinese and Koreans admire and respect it so greatly. We should not be fearful to do so to.
    Do you include Russia in your assessment? I doubt Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov etc would consider themselves fully or perhaps even fully Western.
    How does Bartok who as an ethno-musicologist incorporated music from around the world into his composing, fit into your Paradigm?
    George_Randle and phlogiston like this.
  5. alex_teccy

    alex_teccy Lead commenter

    Classical music is a pure art Form, perhaps the purest there is. It requires no cultural context to understand or love. On of the best interpreters of Chopin I have ever met was a young teacher from Kerala. He didn’t know much about Chopin and even less about the history of Poland and Europe.
    He has a career concerts in Bangalore in jazz/Indian fusion concerts.
    Similarly scholars and learned individuals from around the world don’t need to know the political background of Darwin or Newton, Einstein or Tesla to have a deep respect and love for their work and the benefit they bought mankind.

    Norman Borlaug is credited with saving 1billion people from starvation through his work with wheat.
    Do we write him out of history because he is a white American man and he does not fit the narrative?

    You are the new ideologues who are loading up the history with doctrinal baggage and doctrinal assumptions about inclusion and diversity with the aim of engineering social outcomes.
    George_Randle and ACOYEAR8 like this.

    ACOYEAR8 Star commenter

    To ultimately achieve the unachievable, a curriculum which appeals to all, you'd have to erase our history -however bad and unsettling it might be to the ears and eyes of 2020, it was what it was.
    Opportunity has directed the successes of white people across the centuries, not their ability. Whole areas of history and science, the arts etc are devoid of copious quantities of black protagonists not because they had no ideas but because they lacked the opportunity or indeed the interest.
    Hopefully, this is now changing as our melting pot becomes larger but it is patronising to search for notable black exponents if there are none. No less a pointless search would be for notable white men among the Inuit seal hunting endurance rowers. We must be careful not to continue to impose white success values within our curriculum. If we measure success by these standards then only a selected few will succeed.
    China saw the independent invention of many things that the West thinks of as its own and I doubt that students there settle down to lovingly crafted stories of James Watt's steam engine or how Britain invented stamps.
    alex_teccy likes this.
  7. Jonntyboy

    Jonntyboy Lead commenter

    Excellent points IMO, if I may say so.
  8. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    Depends on the drummer...
    I will join you in arguing the merits or Bach, Wagner, Mozart et al. However, there are many musical cultures, some of which I don't know much about. I have found some Indian Ragas as played by Ravi Shankar and others to be incredibly complex, and I haven't yet got to a point of understanding them. I would certainly not be judging them inferior to music I prefer.
  9. Jonntyboy

    Jonntyboy Lead commenter

    Well that's where we differ then, old oxidiser! I go for absolutes, you seem happy with relatives. :)
  10. costermonger

    costermonger New commenter

    Depends what you like. There can be genius in simplicity. I believe it was Giotto that demonstrated his genius to the King or Pope or someone by drawing a perfect circle freehand.
  11. costermonger

    costermonger New commenter

    Having you agree with me is a deeply worrying experience. I may have to re-examine my views...
    BTBAM85 and Jonntyboy like this.
  12. bessiesmith2

    bessiesmith2 New commenter

    I assume you mean 'You' in the singular, addressed to me as you are quoting from my post. I'm slightly baffled as to your interpretation of it. I am a classical pianist by training - I won my university scholarship playing a programme entirely written by European white, privileged men. (Of which Bartok is one - I don't think he could be classed as anything else, regardless of his eclectic influences.) Of course a first-class musical education should include studying music from the western classical tradition (Russians are normally included in this bracket although I agree they might well not consider themselves European - hence the term 'western').

    I wrote my post in response to a previous post which seemed to be implying that it might be difficult to 'decolonise' the music curriculum as the unquestionable majority of the greatest musicians were either German or Austrian. Like any art form there is a degree of subjectivity in what is acknowledged to be the 'greatest' but I am not advocating that we teach all students that all pieces of music are equally good. However I do not agree that ALL the greatest works of music come from the western classical tradition. The complexities of Miles Davies' modal jazz works are very much comparable to Handel's keyboard sonatas albeit based on modes rather than scales to give just one example.

    Along with my other music teaching colleagues I am permitting myself a cheeky smile at your post although I realise you are not a music teacher. If you are arguing that any attempt to dilute the music curriculum by studying works not written by white men would be loading up the history with doctrinal baggage then I think you will need to return to somewhere in the mid-1970s. We were certainly performing music by a whole range of black jazz musicians in my school Big Band back in 1989....
    George_Randle likes this.
  13. George_Randle

    George_Randle Established commenter

    The KS3 music curriculum takes in raga, samba, African drumming and blues along with the classical tradition. I've always seen jazz and "classical" as complementing rather than competing with each other. My anxieties in the present climate are that the classical component in the curriculum might be squeezed out altogether. That woeful phrase 'decolonize the curriculum' implies that the western classical tradition itself is inherently oppressive. Just as well that this young man took no notice of nonsense like that...

    Last edited: Jun 24, 2020
    Jonntyboy and alex_teccy like this.
  14. alex_teccy

    alex_teccy Lead commenter

    Yes, of course I agree with you. It’s all music and it’s wonderful for children to hear music from around the world. And I’m not for a moment arguing that all great music was written by white “privileged” men.

    On the other hand, you must surely be aware that by using terms such as”white privilege” you are politicising music and these terms come with assumptions that are both based on the terms themselves and how they operate within our current cultural paradigm.
    For one thing, they assume that composers of the western tradition were not successful because of their merits, but because they were privileged as a vector of them being white. This is fallacious because they operated within societies that were overwhelming white so colour would not confer any special adavantage.
    Some operated, like Hayden, within a system of patronage. Again, that’s not privilege. If they did not perform patronage would be withdrawn. Bartok came from modest middle class origins. If he had not worked hard he would not have maintained his financial position. Mahler parents I think we’re street sellers. Even those that did originate in the aristocracy, such as Rachmaninov would have been for the chop under the communists, being part of the privileged bourgeoisie and all, so he fled Russia, (he redrafted his 1st concerto whilst the revolution was underway) leaving everything behind and having to graft on the concert circuit for the rest of his life.

    And of course their are many many composers that have sunk without a trace.

    So yes, assuming that composers and musicians have their standing in history not because of their talent and hard work but because of their identity is purely doctrinal, not objective and has no basis in fact. Neither does “white male privilege” reflect their ongoing popularity especially in cultures that are quite different from those in which they existed.
    phlogiston and Jonntyboy like this.
  15. George_Randle

    George_Randle Established commenter

    Mahler's father Bernhard was a strong-willed self-educated self-made man who bootstrapped himself upwards, got a job as a coachman and then ran a pub and distillery. Street pedlar to director of the Vienna Opera House in three generations, not a bad indicator of social mobility for the family. Haydn's father made carriage wheels. Verdi's parents ran the village shop and pub. Schubert's family worked the land, his father became the village schoolmaster and then ran his own school in Vienna. Mozart was once kicked down the stairs by the Archbishop of Salzburg's footman. Beethoven's father used to beat seven bells out of him and lost his job as court musician because of his alcoholism.

    Bartok struggled in poverty in his final years in exile in the US.

    The only British composer from a working-class background I can think of is Havergal Brian, whose vast Gothic Symphony was performed at the Proms some years ago.
    phlogiston and Jonntyboy like this.
  16. alex_teccy

    alex_teccy Lead commenter

    Great post thank you. This has become quite an illustrative discussion of how some contemporary agendas are being used to rewrite the past. I finding it saddening that classical music is being targeted, a form of music that has such emotional and intellectual power, that transcends differences and has a unique power to reach all people.

    I recall a paragraph in the Citadel by A.J. Cronin where the protagonist recalls hearing Chopin coming from houses as he walked down a street of miners houses.
    Classical music didn't necessarily have to be an elitist pursuit. It's cheaper than premier league football and Beyonce concerts.

    I discovered a statue of Bartok outside South Ken station a few years ago. Why the connection with Kensington I don't know.
    Jonntyboy and George_Randle like this.
  17. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    He visited there in the '20s
    alex_teccy likes this.
  18. citct

    citct New commenter

    Thank you to all that contributed to this thread, fascinating to read. The interesting result of the dubious demand is that deeper, critical thinking is promoted which per se is an improvement. There will be some subjects that need more change than others. The people demanding change should acknowledge this. Seems that the original poster is doing OK! :)

    Science is _not_ politically neutral and it would be naive to believe so. Scientific progress must be contextualised around the political and economic surrounding environments; revenue must be found to finance scientific research and unfortunately, history has shown many negative examples of such a nexus.
  19. alex_teccy

    alex_teccy Lead commenter

    Yes do you remember when eugenics and phrenology were scientific :rolleyes:
  20. costermonger

    costermonger New commenter

    No it would be to misunderstand what science is to describe it as political. The universal gravitational constant is the same whatever ones politics, sexuality, race or gender. That some people might use gravity to drop things on their opponents is a function of ape tribalism rather than the science that describes gravity.
    The moment science becomes political it stops working. For example, Lysenkoism.
    alex_teccy and ParakeetGreen like this.

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